Use of recreational drugs and subsequent addiction, intentional and accidental drug overdose, exposure to toxic chemicals, such as pesticides and insecticides, and snakebites, especially by venomous snakes, require prompt medical intervention to prevent morbidity and mortality. The team at the toxicology critical care unit manages these patients through early assessment, stabilization, laboratory evaluation, decontamination, antidote administration, enhanced elimination of toxins, and disposition.
Toxicology Critical Care refers to the specialized medical care provided for individuals who have been exposed to toxic substances, such as pesticides and insecticides, or have experienced drug overdoses or recreational agent overdoses.
Common types of poisonings treated in Toxicology Critical Care include pesticide and insecticide poisonings, drug overdoses, and recreational agent overdoses.
Pesticide and insecticide poisoning can happen through inhalation, ingestion, or contact with the skin. Exposure may occur during agricultural activities, household use of pesticides, or accidental intake by children.
Symptoms of pesticide and insecticide poisoning can vary depending on the specific substance involved but may include nausea/vomiting, difficulty breathing, neurological effects (such as seizures), skin irritation/allergic reactions, and gastrointestinal disturbances.
If you suspect someone has been poisoned by a pesticide or insecticide:
Drug overdose cases requiring toxicology critical care often result from accidental misuse/mismanagement of medications or intentional abuse/overdose involving prescription drugs (e.g., opioids), illicit drugs (e.g., cocaine), or other substances like alcohol combined with certain medications.
Signs that someone may be experiencing a drug overdose include:
If you suspect someone is experiencing a drug overdose:
Recreational agents refer to substances used for non-medical purposes, such as illicit drugs, party drugs (e.g., MDMA), hallucinogens (e.g., LSD), or other psychoactive substances. Overdoses of these agents can occur due to excessive consumption, adulteration with unknown substances, or unpredictable reactions.
Recreational agent overdoses can lead to severe health consequences ranging from cardiovascular issues and respiratory distress to neurological complications like seizures or organ failure.
Recreational drugs increase dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical associated with pleasure. When recreational drugs are used for a long time, the brain reduces the natural production of dopamine as a response to the continuous triggering of dopamine synthesis. This results in the desire for a continuous supply of recreational drugs to feel pleasure.
Venoms may be neurotoxic, proteolytic, cytotoxic, or hemotoxic. Neurotoxic venom affects the nervous system and causes paralysis of the muscles. It damages the brain and makes the patient unconscious. Proteolytic venom contains proteolytic enzymes. These enzymes are present in the venom of all snakes. It degrades the tissues, especially at the site of the bite. Hemotoxic venom affects red blood cells. It results in severe internal bleeding, cardiovascular failure, and limb amputation. Cytotoxic venom kills the cells and causes disability in the patient.